February 28, 2011

A globetrotter returns to Londonderry, is ready to give back

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- For most of us, running for not one but two elected town positions seems a bit much to fathom.
But having been around the world, and back, Londonderry’s John Velliquette isn’t
 “most of us.”
With over two decades of military service and various long-term employment stints in places such a Egypt, Korea, Iran and the United Arab Emirates under his belt, not to mention surviving a serious illness that left him with various physical challenges, Velliquette, 68, is now pursuing dual seats on the Trustees
 of the Leach Library and the Trustees of the Trust Funds.
Admittedly, it’s an unusual proposition. But then again, Velliquette’s life has been far from ordinary.
The Ohio native, who married his high school sweetheart, Joyce, at age 19, served in the Army for 23 years, ultimately achieving the rank of chief warrant officer 4.
“We moved 11 times over those years,”
 Velliquette recalled, looking back on various long-term technical and defense-related assignments in Korea, Iran and Egypt. The couple’s four children were born in Texas, Ohio, Korea and Colorado, respectively. 

During that time period, the family lived through events most of us only viewed from our television screens, including the 1978 Iranian revolution and the assassination of Egypt’s president in 1981. 
“We piled behind us places where we lived,” Velliquette said. “But all this moving around presented us with a lot of opportunities to see and get ourselves involved in many different communities and school systems.” 
After retiring from the Army, Velliquette embarked on a lengthy career with Raytheon and in 1983, he and his wife moved to Londonderry. Both agreed it would be a lovely place to settle down, with its impressive school system and rural character. 
They wouldn’t stay in town very long. A two-year position in Abu Dhabi ultimately turned into a nearly 19-year stay in the Middle East, where Velliquette oversaw an extensive international program for Raytheon and represented 18 international business groups on an economics development council headed by the nation’s crown prince, making him the first foreigner to serve on a government council there. 
“All through that period, we remained residents of Londonderry. Our home remained open, and my children stayed in our house,” Velliquette recalled. “We watched the town grow from a distance, we paid our taxes and we voted by absentee ballot. I kept thinking to myself, one day we’ll return for good.” 
That day came in late 2007, though things didn’t turn out exactly as Velliquette had planned. 
“At that time, I really wanted to get more involved with the town,” he said. “I was used to being so busy, I knew I just couldn’t sit back and settle in to the slower, New England pace.” 
Several months after returning to New Hampshire, Velliquette woke up one morning completely paralyzed. He soon learned a spinal infection had resulted in the loss of two of his vertebrae. 
From September 2008, through March 2009, Velliquette was hospitalized in Boston, where he underwent extensive rehabilitation and was slowly able to regain some of his mobility. 
Now officially retired from Raytheon, Velliquette uses a wheelchair to get around most days, though he is once again able to walk short distances and drive his car. 
In recent months, a friend alerted him to the number of elected town openings in his adopted hometown. 
“I knew right away I wanted to give back,” Velliquette said. “And the trustee positions seemed a great place to start.” 
On the final afternoon of town filings, Velliquette headed over to Town Hall and was concerned to learn that no one had applied yet for either of the trustee positions. 
“People don’t always get involved. They seem to think someone else will do it,” he said. “But if you’re able to do it, you really should.” 
With that in mind, he put his name on the ballot. And then he did it again. 
Since the grandfather of six filed, a small handful of other residents followed his lead. 
Last week, Town Clerk Meg Seymour said running for two positions at the same time is certainly uncommon, though not unheard of. 
“I do recall at least one other occasion,” Seymour said, noting that state law permits citizens to serve on dual boards, with certain restrictions. 
However, the town’s charter has different stipulations. 
“So if he wins both, he will have to decide which one he wants,” Seymour emphasized. 
And if he wins neither? Velliquette said he won’t be discouraged, noting the town “talent bank” survey available for residents interested in serving their community. 
“If I’m not voted in, I’ll still find a way to serve in one way or another,” he said. “New Hampshire is our home now.” 

February 25, 2011

School Board works to clarify, update restraint policy

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- While the School Board will soon update its student restraint policy to comply with new state law, school officials say much of the practices now required are already in effect in Derry schools.
Restraint is defined as means for restricting a child’s physical
 movement to prevent him or her from either self-injuring or hurting others.
A new version of the restraint policy went before the board for a first reading last week and will be taken up for further consideration on Tuesday.
“This (policy) is far more prescriptive than anything the law was before,” said Derry Student Services Director Christopher
 Kellan at last week’s School Board meeting. “It was very vague and open ended before. We follow the practices, but we need to formalize them.”
While Kellan said that restraint is sometimes required in specialized education settings, it is rarely needed in the regular public school environment.
“Our general practice for any student that requires the routine
 use of physical restraint is that we’re unable to meet their needs in the public school setting,” Kellan said. “It’s something that requires such an excessive amount of training.”
Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon said that restraint in Derry schools is more often used to stop a student from banging his or her fists against a wall or to prevent a young child
 from running out of a school building.
And what starts as restraint many times transitions into comforting, Hannon said. The draft policy clarifies that physical restraint does not include holding a child to calm or comfort.
“Sometimes, especially for
 the little ones, the restraining becomes hugging or cradling when they are upset,” Hannon said. “It’s less of a physical restraint as much as a comfort for them.” 

In a change under state law, a physical restraint may not exceed 15 minutes without the approval of a supervisory employee and may not exceed 30 minutes without a “faceto- face assessment” from someone trained to make assessments as to physical, mental and emotional well being. 
Hannon said the district already has a general practice of not exceeding 15 minutes of restraint without calling for emergency medical services. 
“If we’re going to restrain someone for that long, we call for support from an ambulance or from Parkland (Medical Center) because we don’t feel we are equipped to really assess the emotional stability of the student,” Hannon said. 
Both the existing and draft restraint policies require that a parent or guardian be notified within 24 hours if restraint is used on a child, but Hannon said district staff would usually try to get a hold of parents during or immediately after an incident. 
Within five business days of an instance of physical restraint, the policy would require a written report to be submitted to the superintendent. Within another two days, the superintendent would need to provide written notification to the parent or guardian. 
Hannon said that restraint is only used in instances where a student is truly a risk to himself or others, and only after other verbal interventions. 
“For the most part, if our kids are not getting harmed and if they are maybe just having a breakdown and trashing a room, we won’t be restraining them because they are only harming the room, not themselves or others,” she said. “But we still call emergency services if we can’t deescalate the situation.” 
The School Board will take up the draft policy for a second reading at its meeting on March 1. 

Salon's Style is to Always Make a Difference

Hairstylists, from left, Kristen Martin, Bea Shay and Rebecca Stefanillo, of Hair Update, placed dozens of donated ponytails into bags for shipment to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program on Thursday. 
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- It’s not uncommon for clients at Hair Update to leave the salon feeling much more beautiful than when they walked in.
The local salon has been lending a hand to various cancer charities since opening its doors nearly two decades ago, and in addition to the sassy new hairdos they’re sporting, many clients go home with the knowledge they’ve made a lasting difference in the life of another.
This week, staff members sorted
 through dozens and dozens of ponytails they’ve collected over the past six months, hair that will soon be sent off to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths charity to make wigs for strangers who’ve lost their own hair during cancer treatments.
Each stylist seems to have a story to tell. One recalled a 5-year-old client who allows her hair to grow for
 annual donations. 

“We’ve always collected here,” hairstylist Kristen Martin said on Thursday afternoon as she twirled a long, auburn ponytail between her fingers. “Some clients come in and end up getting six or seven inches cut off when we mention the idea of donating their hair. Many decide to donate because a loved one has cancer. ” According to salon owner Joe Santos, the staff at Hair Update began collecting hair about 18 years ago, at first collecting and donating ponytails to Locks of Love, a charity providing free hairpieces to financially challenged children battling cancer in the United States and Canada. 
Several years ago, when students and staff members at Londonderry High School began what’s become an annual tradition of hosting a school-wide haircutting benefi t, the good folks at Hair Update knew they wanted to help out even further. 
Since then, Hair Update stylists have annually donated their time during the event, styling the hair of over 200 hair donors. Many of those donors had grown out their hair specifically to donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which provides free hairpieces to cancer patients of all ages. 
“It all comes full circle. Some of our clients have gotten cancer and benefitted from a free wig,” Santos said this week. “We’ve been able to help a lot of these women.” 
Martin said it hasn’t been very difficult encouraging clients to donate their hair. 
“I’d say half of the people who come in seem to have someone in their lives coping with cancer,” she said, noting that her own aunt was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that claimed the life of her grandmother. 
“Sometimes the clients ask us to send it out. We do it in bulk,” she said of the most recent pile of hair donations. Over the past six months or so, staff members at Hair Update have collected approximately 100 ponytails. 
Londonderry High School teacher Steve Juster, who organizes the high school’s Beautiful Lengths event each winter, praised the salon’s ongoing efforts, noting the community’s support is vital for the event’s continued success. 
Juster said he plans to send out Hair Update’s most recently donated ponytails sometime in the coming week. 
“It’s a yearlong effort,” he added. When students return to classes next week, a date will be set for the 2012 event and Juster will yet again begin the long process of calling past donors who’ve since gone off to college. 
“We start early trying to trigger our collections,” he said. 
When Londonderry’s eighth-graders visit the high school this spring, Juster and his colleagues plan on taking a moment to tell the soon-tobe- freshmen about his favorite event. 
“We try and encourage them not to cut their hair over the summer and wait until January to do it,” he said with a grin. 

Fair provides education in changing careers

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Don’t call it a career fair. Call it an opportunity.
Though the tough economic times haven’t missed the Londonderry School District, that doesn’t mean school officials are skipping their
 annual networking event. This year, however, the March fair that was previously devoted to interviewing new teacher candidates will be given a new twist. 

For the past decade, the Londonderry School District has held an annual Career Fair in the spring and the event has been a huge success over the years, Human Resources Director Suzie Swenson said. 
With budget challenges making staff cuts inevitable in the coming year and many residents contemplating a career change for various reasons, Swenson knew it was time to address the community’s interests while at the same time preparing the district for the unexpected staff vacancies that always seem to arise. 
“We still get those calls. People tell us they’ve always wanted to become a teacher, but they don’t know how to go about it,” Swenson said. 
Not a certified teacher yet? Not to worry. 
During the 2009 Career Fair, the district invited representatives from several local colleges to attend, offering information on those contemplating a new path. 
That new feature certainly resonated with fair-goers. 
“Over 300 people attended last year, so we knew this was a viable option,” Swenson said. 
This year, representatives from at least half a dozen area colleges will return, along with state Department of Education staff. Among the colleges being represented are Rivier College, Lesley University, University of New Hampshire, Keene State, Southern New Hampshire University and Plymouth State. 
As for those hoping to score an interview with the Londonderry School District, well, they won’t be disappointed. Others may sign up for a “mock interview,” where would-be job-searchers can practice their interviewing skills with actual school administrators. 
“It kind of goes back to the job fairs you’d have in college,” Benefits Coordinator Cindy McMahon said. “You’ll get some great feedback and suggestions.” 
Experienced educators are also welcome to attend. 
“Maybe an elementary teacher wants to learn more about getting special education certification,” McMahon noted. “The folks from the colleges can help clear that up for them. You can just wander in and find out.” 
Rounding out the event will be three free seminars: a marketing seminar hosted by Londonderry High School marketing teacher Scott Greene; a seminar focused on what schools seek in their applicants hosted by Assistant Superintendent Andy Corey; and a seminar on creating the ideal application packet hosted by Dr. Cindy Flow, spokesman for the popular SchoolSpring website. 
Greene, a former corporate recruiter, will share his own experiences in making a career change. 
He’s far from alone, Swenson and McMahon said, noting that two of the high school’s physics teachers are also later-in-life career changers. 
“One of them left an engineering position at BAE, while another was in the Army for 20 years,” McMahon said. “He taught physics at West Point.” 
“They’re both fabulous teachers,” Swenson added. “Sometimes, having life experience is so much better.” 

February 24, 2011

The Right Stuff

While the tough economy continues to devour businesses, Bittersweet Blessings has managed to find a comfortable niche. 
Denise Trottier, left, makes a purchase at Bittersweet Blessings, a country store owned
by Michelle Stein, center and her mother-in-law, Barbara Stein, right.
Union Leader Correspondent
A long-john wall hanging fashioned from an
old pair of socks, and a primitive crow head, both
made by local crafters, on display
at Bittersweet Blessings in Chester.
CHESTER -- For 22 years, Barbara Stein ran a preschool from the basement of her home. But when the school district added public kindergarten, Stein was torn. She still had parents interested in continuing with her services, but she knew, as a teacher, that they’d be better off socializing in a larger group at school.
So in June 2010 she made the abrupt but final decision to give up teaching, leaving her with a bittersweet dilemma. “We had a great space here. It wasn’t long before my Michelle and I were thinking about what it would take to turn it into a country store,” said Stein, who along with her daughter-in-law, Michelle Stein, have turned a mutual love for primitive arts and crafts into a thriving niche business venture. 
“It was more like our husbands would kill us if we didn’t start selling and stop buying,” said Michelle Stein, going through a box of items just in from another country store that’s going out of business. 
Their store, Bittersweet Blessings, is not named not for Stein’s circumstance but rather her penchant for gnarled vines. As you open the door and walk down five steps it’s like entering a subterranean treasure trove just off the beaten path. 
“When my sons were younger I used to have them go out hunting for bittersweet vines for me,” said Barbara Stein. The “blessings” part is simply a karmic nod to their shared philosophy of gratitude, for family, friends and the ability to reap what one sows. 
“This is all from Crazy Crow in Suncook. They’re sending all their stuff to us, which is great for us and great for the consigners,” says Michelle Stein, pulling a series of remarkably simple-looking fabric-stuffed crow heads with a tiny jinglebell eyes and gauzy accoutrements from the box. 
The crows are among a pile of objects handmade by Kim Morin of Loudon, well known in local country craft circles, said Michelle Stein, which means the items will sell on reputation alone. 
Frankly, selling isn’t a problem, even for a store selling objets d’art in a down economy. 
“We opened in October and broke even by Christmas,” said Michelle Stein, tucking crow heads in crannied nooks while her mother-in-law shifted some more new merchandise from one end of the sales counter to another. 
“We’ve heard feedback that our prices are fair. We don’t have to mark up as much as other stores might because we really don’t have any overhead, except electricity,” Barbara Stein explained. 
The store is part of Barbara Stein’s home, so there’s no rent. Heat is generated from firewood. Her son Matt takes care of plowing and landscaping. Her husband, Lenny, handles electrical and plumbing needs. 
Another secret to their success is the constant turnover of items, with new pieces coming in daily, said Michelle Stein. 
“We have some kind of sale weekly, which might take away from what we make a little, but it really helps our crafters who consign,” said Michelle Stein. 
“They get 73 percent profit, which is pretty standard in this industry. People interested in country and primitive items normally don’t just go to one store. Usually there is a circuit of stores, and if they’re shopping, they’re hitting more than one.” 
Regulars, like Denise Trottier of Chester, look forward to seeing what’s new. Yesterday, Trottier was taken by some hand-painted yellow finch statuettes, which she paired with a birdhouse and a spray of spring flowers. 
“I really just like this kind of decor, so I come in every couple of weeks — I’ve been coming ever since they opened,” Trottier said. 
Similar spring-like items have been drawing in customers who seek relief from the white-and-gray landscape outside, said Michelle Stein. 
Delicate twisted vines featuring forsythia blooms or cherry blossoms set off with twinkle lights seem to be the current trend in home decorating. 
“We have another shipment of lit branches coming tomorrow — 70 pounds of branches, because our last batch of spring branches already sold out,” she said. 
On the front counter are chocolates made by Heidi O’Connell of Auburn and herbal tinctures and soaps by Jean Marie Belzile of Derry. 
Trottier gets a complimentary bag of Too Hot to Handle J.Drizzle Gourmet Popcorn, made by Joe Choquette of Chester. Hanging near a crow head is a tiny patched-up pair of long johns, hung with tiny clothespins on a twig, a whimsical bit of folk art fashioned by Paula Patrikas of Windham, sold under the name Paula’s Prettys. 
“When stores close, like Country Cupboards in Derry and Crazy Crow, our consigners lose out because they only sell through stores like ours,” said Michelle Stein. 
It’s not for lack of interest or demand in such items, said Stein, noting that despite some stores closing, another new store, Raven’s Nook, just launched in Hampstead. 
“I have some customers who come in and spend a couple hundred dollars every week,” she said. 
In addition to locally made wares, there are paintings, quilts, textiles, jewelry, candles, wall hangings, a potpourri bar and endless countrified knickknacks made in and around New England and beyond. 
“We do carry some of the popular national brands, like Park Designs, a textile manufacturer — that table cloth is Park Designs, for example,” said Michelle Stein, pointing toward an orange-and-gold checkered gingham cloth, typical of the warm hues and comforting designs that add to the peaceful ambiance inside the shop. 
“We have people who come in, not to shop, but just to sit for an hour,” said Michelle Stein. “They say, ‘I just needed some quiet time.’ We love that.” 

On the Web: www.bittersweet-blessings.com 

Group to make push for Abbott Court

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- For months, Derry’s Downtown Committee has been quietly mulling ways to uplift the town’s center, which has been plagued with closing businesses and limited foot traffic.
And committee members say they plan to ask the council this spring to begin setting aside money for a development on the municipal
 parking lot on Abbott Court.
“Nothing’s going to happen overnight,” said Mike Gendron, who serves as a spokesman for the committee. “What we’re suggesting is not going to happen for five to 10 years. We just want to get the funding mechanisms in place to start setting aside some dollars on an annual basis to­
ward investing in downtown.” 

Gendron said the committee has loosely narrowed in on one of several possible uses for the Abbott Court parking lot outlined by the Arnett Group of Concord, with whom the town has contracted economic development services.
That proposal would incorporate a 204-lot parking garage, 86 surface parking spaces and roughly six mixed-use retail, office and residential buildings, Gendron said. He said the committee has suggested that medical offices, high-tech companies or hotels, for example, could work in combination with more traditional retail shops. 
Downtown Committee chairman Gordon Graham said he hopes the plan would also incorporate some open spaces and create a “pedestrian mall.” 
“We want to think big and to make some long-term plans to attract a large development to what is really a unique piece of property in a downtown area of the fourth largest community in New Hampshire,” Graham said. 
Graham said the town would ideally work with interested developers to see what uses could work for the space before completing the necessary infrastructure updates. 
“It will likely be whatever the market is interested in,” he said. “The thing the town needs to do is be prepared to step up to the plate and work with a developer to make sure that it supports that developer through the possible construction down there.” 
But committee member Mary Hankins, owner of Backmann Florist on West Broadway, said she wants to see further facade improvements on Broadway before the town pursues new construction. 
“I think (Abbott Court) will be wonderful, but it seems like we’re going in lots of different directions,” Hankins said. “Let’s take what monies and abilities we have now to work on what we have already.” 
Downtown committee member Dan Nelson said he sees the Abbott Court project as a way to spur upgrades to the entire downtown area. 
“Right now many of the improvements are along Broadway itself, but you go back a block or two and it’s what we’ve had for decades,” Nelson said. “This is forming a core nucleus that we can expand out from.” 
Other suggestions include the extension of Merchant’s Row, where the former Depot Square Steakhouse building sits, to South Avenue. Members have also suggested the construction of a semi-permanent farmers market structure nearby. 
Gendron said committee members are hoping to see the downtown project incorporated into the town’s Capital Improvement Plan and ideally funded with a new TIF District. 
With money set aside, Gendron said the town could make any necessary infrastructure upgrades to the ready the space for developers and possibly purchase “gateway properties” that surround the Abbott Court lot to expand the available area. 
Committee member Craig Bulkley said he sees the Abbott Court project as comparable to the Ash Street development, where the town purchased and updated a parcel of land to prepare for commercial development. He said that bringing more people into downtown for work and recreation would only help the other businesses in the area. 
“It’s much more than just spending money today. It’s a matter of being able to have a vision for what the downtown can look like in 10 to 20 years down the road,” Bulkley said. “The money the council may decide to spend will come back to us in many ways if we’re able to get more people in the downtown.” 
Gendron said the committee will refine its council recommendations in the coming weeks and hopefully get the proposal before the council ahead of budget deliberations in April. 

Behind the folk music

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Telling the seldom-heard stories behind some of America’s best-loved folk songs is something the acoustic folk trio Random Acts of Harmony prides itself on.
The group will perform its musical program, “Folk Music: Singing History,” at Londonderry’s Leach Library early
 next month. 

Made up of Exeter-area band members Randy Filliger, Rob Becker and Dick Kruppa, Random Acts of Harmony specializes in both traditional and contemporary folk tunes, sung with acoustic guitar, banjo and stand-up bass accompaniment. 
The trio, all seasoned musicians in their own right, have been performing together for the past five years and individually have long musical histories, with members previously performing in groups that opened for the likes of The Beach Boys, The Lettermen and Pete Seeger. 
Known for their crisp and tight three-part harmonies, Random Acts of Harmony counts folk groups The Weavers and The Kingston Trio among their many influences. A self-professed history buff, Becker will put his acting talents to good use during next month’s performance, sharing the historical tidbits and events that inspired various tunes. 
“We like to sing fairly familiar folk songs, ones where the audience might feel welcome to join in,” Becker said, noting that during the library performance, he plans on offering colorful introductions to each number. 
“I have a great interest in history, and I love to find out what’s behind each song,” he added. 
For example “The City of New Orleans,” a song made popular by Arlo Guthrie, is much more than a catchy tune. 
“It was actually written by Steve Goodman, a Chicago native whose wife was from New Orleans,” Becker said. 
Listen closer, he added, and you’ll hear the tale of a trip to The Big Easy taken by train, in the days when rail travel was still very much a huge slice of the American experience. 
“Goodman was struck by the fact that only a handful of people were traveling with him that day,” Becker said. “What he was seeing was the steady demise of passenger trains in this country. It’s a bittersweet and beautiful song: He was anticipating the end of an era.” 
When Goodman approached Guthrie with the song he’d written, the folk legend reportedly replied, “Buy me a beer, and as long as my glass stays full, I’ll listen to your song.” 
“It’s those kinds of stories we tell our audiences,” Becker said. “And I’ll bet Arlo stayed and listened long after his cup had gone empty.” 
A century or two before Guthrie first strummed his guitar, Scottish and Irish immigrants settling in the Appalachian regions wrote ballads as a way of sharing events and happenings with far-off relatives on distant shores. 
“Songs like the Broadside Ballad told stories like these, they were a way of importing news from town to town,” Becker said. 
Becker, who retired from the advertising industry several years ago, said he’s always had a passion for performing. In that spirit, Random Acts of Harmony has performed at a variety of venues over the years, from fairs to coffeehouses, as well as at music clubs and libraries. 
Folk music lovers of all ages will enjoy the upcoming library performance, he said. 
“We don’t do children’s songs, but a lot of times kids do know our songs,” Becker said. “Our defining sound is our three-part harmony: It’s a tight, three-part sound.” 
Random Acts of Harmony will play at the Leach Library on Thursday, March 10, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held in the library’s lower level meeting room. Light refreshments will be served. 

February 23, 2011

Economic Development spending criticized at forum

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY --  Taking up issues like Walmart-type development and future funding for Exit 4A, Town Council candidates spent about an hour telling voters where they stand during a televised debate on Sunday.
While economic development has been a major goal of
 the sitting council, District 3 candidate Shannon Coyle said she wants to see money diverted to other projects, speaking during Sunday’s debate sponsored by Derry Community Television.
“I wish they’d stop putting taxpayer money into (economic development),” said Coyle, wife of current Councilor Kevin
 Coyle. “It seems like they’re just throwing it into a black hole and it’s going away. I’d really like to see the town shift into finding ways to make the community more enjoyable.”
Coyle works as a police officer in Londonderry. This is her first attempt at public office.
Speaking to Derry’s downtown, councilor at-large candidate
 Doug Newell said he would not support public funding for some economic development projects, like construction of a parking garage in the downtown.
“To use taxpayers’ money in an effort to prop up the downtown through a parking garage is set for failure,” said Newell, a candidate for councilor-at-large.
“I think we ought to think outside the box a little bit on downtown and maybe encourage opportunities that aren’t purely retail.”
Newell, who has twice run for council but never been elected, has served on two charter commissions
 and is a member of the School Board’s fiscal advisory committee. Newell runs a pattern recognition and data analysis company in Derry that employs five people. 

Incumbent council Vice Chairman Neil Wetherbee, who represents District 3, said that the sitting council has made some strides to improve conditions in the downtown, such as updating lighting and opening discussions for tax incentive programs for property owners. 
But, he said, there’s only so much the council can do. 
“There’s no one magic bullet that’s going to fix the issues in the downtown, and I think that anybody that tells you otherwise is not being honest,” said Wetherbee. “The businesses that close, there’s a story behind each one. I don’t think there’s a particular factor and, quite honestly, I think that a lot of it is out of the control of the Town Council.” 
Wetherbee is coming off his first term on the council. He and his wife run a marketing and design company in Derry. 
Councilor at-large candidate Jeff Lawman said he sees much of the problems with Derry’s downtown as tied to the town’s property tax rates. 
“Derry businesses primarily rely on Derry shoppers and Derry shoppers have limited funds right now,” he said. 
Lawman, who recently ran for School Board, has worked for 20 years in the quality assurance and reliability engineering industry. 
While he said he would support the growth of large businesses in sectors other than retail, like in high-tech fields, Lawman said he would prefer not to see “big box” stores moving to town. 
“The larger retail stores, although they are necessary, do not pay as good of earnings (as small businesses) and they are generally going to bring people from outside of Derry to work there anyway,” he said. “Londonderry, Manchester and Salem have a multitude of large retail stores to choose from.” 
Coyle said she expects the council to weigh in on future development, if only to set the tone. 
“(Businesses) look at the Town Council as leaders, so absolutely if a business comes in and we don’t want it here, we say no. We take our opinions forefront,” Coyle said. “… We need to be careful and selective.” 
All candidates at Sunday’s forum said they were not ready to support more funding for the proposed Exit 4A, but Newell took a harder line on the project. 
“Not one more dime for 4A would I ever vote for,” he said. “... We’ve wasted $2 million now, and I wouldn’t fund the other $3 million.” 
Addressing perceived friction on the council, Wetherbee said he believes the sitting council is working well together. 
“There are urban legends, so to speak, that the Town Council doesn’t get along and that we’re a fractious board, but people who say that haven’t done their homework,” he said. “This Town Council over the past year has voted unanimously 75 percent of the time, and I personally think that’s a real good number.” 
Council Chairman Brad Benson, who is seeking re-election to his district-at-large seat, was not present at the Sunday forum. A taped video statement was aired in his absence. 
The full candidates forum will continue to air on local cable. 

What's full-day kindergarten worth? $3,200

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY — Derry parents taking advantage of public full-day kindergarten will pay $3,200 per student next fall when the program opens in its first year.
The School Board approved the new program to boost revenue during budget deliberations this fall and finalized the fee at a meeting last week.
And Derry Superintendent Mary Ellen Han­
non said parents are already eager to enroll. 

“There isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t getting phone calls about this right now because a lot of the local communities are asking for parents to sign up for the full-day programs,” said Hannon at a School Board meeting last Tuesday. 
In addition to the free half-day kindergarten running currently at each elementary school, the full-day program will be open to students on a tuition basis. 
Students will take the regular morning and afternoon school buses at no additional cost to the district, Hannon said. The School Board eliminated midday kindergarten busing in its budget proposal, saving the district almost $190,000. 
And while the full-day program will allow students to participate in art, music and physical education programs, Hannon made it clear at last week’s board meeting that half-day students would not be missing out. 
“There will be important social skills, thematic pieces and arts, but the definite components of our expectation in kindergarten for math and reading are not going to change, so that our parents don’t feel like they’ve been shortchanged by having their child in the public school for the half-day program,” Hannon said. 
After reviewing other private full-day kindergarten programs in town, business administrator Jane Simard said most were charging about $4,500 per year. 
In Salem, Simard said the full-day public kindergarten program charges $3,000 per year, with a $100 increase scheduled for next year. 
With a tuition rate of $3,200 per student, Simard said, each of Derry’s 18-student full-day classes would more than pay for the cost of a kindergarten teacher. She said the average new teacher costs the district about $55,000 with salary and benefits. 
And if there’s enough interest in the full-day program, Hannon said each elementary school has space for an additional full-day kindergarten class.
When district staff first proposed full-day kindergarten last fall, projections showed about $350,000 in revenue for the first year. 
But Simard said the $3,200 per-student fee could generate up to $576,000 for the district if each of Derry’s five elementary schools opens two full-day programs. At capac-ity, the full-day kindergarten could serve 180 students, she said. 
But School Board member Ken Linehan said he would only support the additional classrooms with the full 18student enrollment intact. 
“We need to make sure that we put requirements or guidelines in place about minimum class sizes in order to fund a program, and if we don’t have enough children that it doesn’t happen,” Linehan said. “Then they just opt into the half-day program or move to another school where maybe they can get enough children to create a classroom.” 
Hannon assured Linehan and the board that the second classroom would only be opened if that 18-student enrollment threshold is met, as the program is intended to be self-funded. 
The board approved the $3,200 fee at last week’s meeting, with member Mark Grabowski voting against the measure. Grabowski said he thought the $3,200 rate was too low. 
Enrollment will be on a first come, first-served basis. 

Easement purchase in hands of Council

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- With just a handful of attendees at Tuesday night’s public hearing, the decision of whether the Conservation Commission will purchase a $219,000 conservation easement on Merrill Orchards land now rests with the Town Council.
Located at 587 Mammoth Road, the parcel in question encompasses 22 acres abutting the Merrill family farm.
During the Tuesday night Conservation Com­
mission meeting, commissioner Mike Speltz said the parcel is of particular interest because it would adjoin existing conservation easements to the south. 

The land on the easement site rises from Mammoth Road across a low, wet area, sloping toward a steep hill that marks one of the highest points in Londonderry. 
According to the property owners, the mostly wooded parcel hasn’t been farmed in recent history. 
An existing farmhouse owned by the Merrill family is on the tax lot, though it won’t be included in the easement. 
Referring to slides of the site’s unique environmental features, Speltz said nearly the entire parcel is considered to be supporting landscape, which ties in with the commission’s action plan to provide a natural buffer to the town’s wetlands, since the wetlands support many species of wildlife. The land also contains remnants of a former trolley path and a large Appalachian Oak Pine habitat. 
Speltz said a recent appraisal revealed the site could hold three house lots, and if the land were instead developed, its value would be an estimated $505,000. 
Funds for the proposed purchase are available in the town’s open space fund, which is funded mainly using money from land use change taxes. For the past several years, the economical climate has made it unfeasible to place open space bond items on the March ballot, commissioners noted, and this year is no exception. 
With little comment from the public, the Conservation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday evening to recommend the purchase to the Town Council. 
The town holds agricultural easements at both Sunnycrest and Moose Hill orchards, with 1,088 acres of the town’s 3,610 protected acres falling under conservation easements. 
A final decision on the proposed easement purchase will be made during a Town Council meeting sometime next month. 

February 22, 2011

Candidates debate Pinkerton Academy, state aid

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- If state adequacy aid is restored for next year, the incoming Derry School Board will be faced with directing those funds after making significant cuts to next year’s budget proposal this fall.
Incumbent Derry School Board member Wendy Smith, speaking at a candidates forum sponsored by Derry Community Television on Sunday, said she would hope to see the board put that money back into the bare-bones budget. Smith is seeking re-election to another three-year term on the board.
“If in fact the state does give us money, I think we should bring the programs back up to the levels they should be at,” Smith said. “And depending on
 what the amount of money is, we should bring the teachers back that were unfortunately let go.” 

The School Board’s budget cuts $4.5 million and 46 teaching positions for next year. 
But candidate Daniel McKenna, who served on the School Board’s fiscal advisory committee, said he would want to see at least some of that additional aid returned to Derry taxpayers. 
“The budget the School Board passed the fiscal advisory committee reviewed as a fiscally responsible budget, so I think that most of the money that would come back from the state if that was the case, should go to defer the tax burden,” McKenna said. 
McKenna said he would be most concerned with increasing funding to special education programs and setting aside money to deal with increasing retirement system costs. 
Kevin Coyle, who is a sitting town councilor, said he would want to send the balance of any restored funding to taxpayers. 
“Even if we got all that money back, we’re still looking at past the level tax rate if you turned it back to the tax base,” Coyle said. “And I think that’s where it belongs.” 
Candidates present at Sunday’s forum also expressed frustration with Pinkerton Academy’s level of participation in reductions for next year to account for that loss in state funding. But when asked about the potential for a new public high school to serve Derry students, candidates said that solution would be a long way off, if possible at all. 
“It’s sort of a toss-up for building a new high school or staying with Pinkerton,” Smith said. “If you had a new high school, the town would be controlling where the funds go and how much is spent on a budget. Right now we have no control over what Pinkerton does. They give us a number, and we pay.” 
“But as far as costs of building a new high school, I’m not even sure what that would look like right now,” Smith said. “But whether or not that’s an option? It may be something we need to look at.” 
McKenna said he sees a new high school as a last resort. 
“We need more dialogue, rather than Pinkerton just dictating the situation to us,” McKenna said. “Our relationship with Pinkerton is something we need to build on and to continue to improve. But I think at the same time we need to be able to have the conversation about building a high school. However, it would not be my first choice.” 
Coyle said he did not think a new high school was appropriate. 
“Our relationship with Pinkerton is strained at the moment, but we have to realize that we’ve spent 100-plus years with Pinkerton Academy. We need to work with them to provide the best possible education that we can,” he said. 
“We have to understand that they are here, that they are a viable entity and that they are staying,” Coyle said. “Building a high school would be prohibitive and just not feasible.” 
Candidate Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien was not present at the forum but prepared a written statement that was read aloud. 
The candidate’s forum was sponsored by Derry Community Television and will continue to air on local cable. 

Conservation Board eyes more orchard land

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- The Conservation Commission is considering the purchase of a $219,000 conservation easement on land owned by Merrill Orchards.
Residents are encouraged to attend a public hearing tonight in the Sunnycrest Conference Room at Town Hall. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Located at 587 Mammoth
 Road, the parcel in question encompasses just over 20 acres abutting the Merrill family farm, conservation commissioner Mike Speltz said last week.
Speltz said the site, which contains a woodlot set on the highest point in northern Londonderry, is of particular interest since it’s adjacent to other conservation areas in town and
 therefore provides connections in the green infrastructure.
“It is on a hill, and there is an old town road running through the property,” Speltz said, noting that funding for the easement is available in the town’s open space fund.
Under terms of the easement, the Merrill family would still be permitted to use the site for
 various agricultural purchases.
The town of Londonderry holds other agricultural easements at both Sunnycrest and Moose Hill orchards, with 1,088 acres of the town’s 3,610 protected acres currently falling under conservation easements. Other protected sites in town include common land parcels, deed restrictions, town-owned
 parcels acquired for conservation, parcels owned by others for conservation purposes and open space, and parcels that are protected by the state Department of Transportation for airport access mitigation.
Londonderry’s open space program dates to 2001, when
 town officials formed an initial plan for keeping a percentage of the town’s land set aside for conservation purposes. 

By 2005, the task force had conceptualized a more detailed plan, with specific areas in town mapped out for open space. 
In 2006, the task force began drafting the town’s current open space program. Around the same time, the town had acquired a Geographic Information System (GIS), which was used to determine key types of open space resources that merit protection. 
In most cases, landowners work closely with town officials in the purchase of a conservation easement, with the town and the landowner often splitting the cost of a property appraisal. 
Once both agree on an appraised value, the Conservation Commission typically conducts a public hearing to consider an easement purchase. From there, the commission makes its final recommendation to the Town Council, which has the final say. 
During the March 2010 Town Meeting, a citizens’ petition asking voters to place 20 percent of land use change taxes into the town’s open space fund was rejected during a secret ballot vote. Only 65 residents voted in the article’s favor, while 180 voted against the item. 
The town’s conservation fund currently receives 100 percent of land use change tax funds, and during last year’s Town Meeting, conservation commissioner Deb Lievens had urged voters to reject the item, since she feared it could have ended town’s open space program. 

Fire damages apartment building

Lieutenant Rick Fisher and Firefighter Tom Small venting the roof. PHOTO/DFD
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Residents were evacuated from a small apartment building after a thirdfloor unit caught fire yesterday. Firefighters arrived at 12A South Avenue for a reported fire just before 2 p.m. where crews observed thick black smoke and fire showing from the windows of a third-floor, two-bedroom apartment, fire officials said.
This building contains six two-bedroom apartments on three floors. Although the residents of the apartment where the fire originated were not home, other residents of the building were home, and were evacuated safely.
Fire crews searched the building and ventilated the roof and attic, which made it possible to contain the fire and most of the
 smoke to the apartment where the fire started, officials said. 

As a result, there was extensive fire, smoke and steam damage to the third-floor apartment. All contents throughout the apartment were burned by the fire, melted by the high heat or destroyed by heavy black smoke, officials said. Other apartments suffered no damage, although some smoke damage to the common hallway on the third floor was reported. All tenants were allowed to reoccupy their undamaged apartments. 
There were no reported injuries, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

February 18, 2011

On The Trail of Adventure

Snowmobile rider Andrew Hall, shown here and below, hit the trails with two 
friends for an adventure and found trail conditions so good they rode for five hours and 125 miles to Gilford. 

Union Leader Correspondent
Andrew Hall of Derry.

Happy trails this year, thanks to a bumper crop of snow.
DERRY -- Andrew Hall likes taking the long way whenever possible which, this winter, has been most days. Lunch up north? No problem. All he needs is a clear day, several hours to spare and his Ski-Doo Rotax 600 HO E-TEC snowmobile.
“My friends and I had been talking about taking a long trip, but this is the first year we’ve had enough snow to do it,” said Hall, 19.
 Thanks to what has been called an “unusually phenomenal” year for snowmobiling by the head of the state’s Bureau of Trails, Hall and two of his friends, Jared Bartolotta of Hampstead and

Cris King of Derry, were able to mount a seasonal adventure of epic proportions, thanks to 5-plus feet of snow and the benevolence of the state’s 113 dedicated snowmobile clubs, who are solely responsible for grooming the trails. 
“Our goal was to go to Tilton — I love the Tilt’n Diner. But once we made it that far, the trails were so good we decided to keep going,” said Hall. 
The 125-mile trip from the trail head in his back yard to Patrick’s Pub in Gilford took a good five hours on snow machines. 
Oh sure, it took five times longer than it would have doing 65 mph on the highway, but in this case, the journey was the point. 
“Yeah, there were a few rough spots on the trails. It happens. Sometimes the groomers break down. We made it, though. It was great,” Hall said. 
Hall is not alone in regarding New Hampshire’s snowy trails as his winter playground. 
According to New Hampshire Snowmobile Association President Terry Callum Jr. of Unity, snowmobiling is a vital part of the state’s economy, attracting some 60,000 registered snowmobilers to the state’s 7,000mile trail system annually. 
“Although there hasn’t been an updated survey since 2002-2003, according to the last survey published in 2004, snowmobiling brought in $1.2 billion in indirect revenue to the state — if you consider lodging, meals, fuel, and other related expenses. But directly, it brings in $350 million annually, which is no small thing,” Callum said. 
Regional snowmobile clubs like the Derry Pathfinders take care of grooming trails. Keeping up in a season of plentiful snow can be a challenge, said club president Phil Bruno. 
“I think if Andrew and his friends ran into some rough spots on the trails further north, it might have been because that particular weekend coincided with the Easter Seals Ride-In, a big fundraiser that many of the clubs participate in. Generally, we all have dedicated, committed guys who will scramble to make sure they get out and groom the trails regularly,” Bruno said. 
According to Chris Gamache, chief of the state Bureau of Trails, this is the first winter in recent memory that trails in all 10 counties were open for business. 
“We rely heavily on the clubs, and while we do fund a portion of their grooming efforts, Derry Pathfinders and other clubs have just about run out of hours they were approved for grooming, so we’re working on a second round of grant funding to make sure the trails remain groomed through March,” Gamache said. 
Clubs apply for grants in the fall, money that is derived from a percentage of snowmobile registrations, said Gamache. 
Only 65 percent of the cost of grooming is reimbursed by the $1.4 million in state grants; the rest is covered by the clubs. 
“So their membership fees, fundraising spaghetti suppers and hamburger drives are really what keep this billion-dollar industry going for the state,” Gamache said. 
Although there are plenty of other states where winter snow is plentiful and snowmobiling is a huge part of the winter economy, what makes New Hampshire unique is the possibility for border-to-border riding in all directions, Callum said. 
“You can ride to Vermont, to Maine, to Massachusetts and even up into Canada,” Callum said. “You could even make a road trip out of it, from Massachusetts to Canada, stopping along the way for lodging and meals, although you’d need the time to do it.” 
For Hall and his friends, all 2010 graduates of Pinkerton Academy, the luxury of time, while fleeting, still exists. Hall said he’s looking at enrolling in college in the fall after taking a year off to work with his dad, Jack Hall, at Hillcrest Motors, the family business. 
And while he said he’d love to take another long adventure ride up north before the big meltdown, he admits that the going was slow enough on the way back home from Gilford that, by 8 p.m. his dad, was picking the weary trio up in Concord. 
“They probably could have made it home, but I didn’t want a call at 2 a.m. that they’d had a breakdown somewhere,” said Jack Hall. 
“Yeah. Maybe next time we’d have to get an earlier start, except we’d have to get up earlier. 
So maybe not,” said Hall, with a smile. 
Plentiful snow this season has made such pleasure trips possible for snowmobilers across the state, said Bruno. 
Being prepared remains one of the cardinal rules of responsible snowmobiling, and joining a local club is a great place to start. “It’s key. You have to be prepared, which means knowing what to do if you run across an accident, or have one, or if you get lost. All our clubs have maps available, and you can get them right from the Web. We’re always looking for new members,” Bruno said. 
“Snowmobiling is a great adventure. You’ll see portions of the state you wouldn’t normally see if you took the highways. 
It’s a great opportunity to see wildlife and scenery,” Bruno said. “It’s an adventure I’d love to be able to have the time for. Unfortunately, for most of us, work gets in the way.” 

Work on Exit 5 gets green light

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- With the state Executive Council’s approval of a $36.7 million contract for the widening of the Exit 5 area on Interstate 93, Londonderry town officials said the improvements will leave the area bursting with development possibilities in the coming years.
“Hopefully, it will improve the safety and traffic circulation throughout this area,” Community Development Director Andre Garron said on Wednesday, just hours after the new contract was announced.
According to state Department of Transportation Commissioner George Campbell, the project, expected to be completed by June 2014, includes the reconstruction of two miles of the highway and surrounding areas on Route 28,
 as well as improvements to both the north and south exits.

Candia’s Severino Trucking Company was awarded the contract, and the project will mark the state’s first time using Garvee Bonds, which are backed by future highway funds due to the state.
Garron said the project would increase the capacity of the Route 28 roadway from Liberty Drive to Perkins Road, as well as improve the capacity and circulation of Exit 5.
“The improved functionality of this area will help address some of the traffic-related growth issues Londonderry
 and abutting communities will face over the next 10 to 20 years,” Garron added.
Though initial work took place around Exit 5 several years ago when the nearby Park & Ride was built, Garron said work remains to be completed on the northbound off ramp, as well as surrounding sections of Route 28.
This past spring, Londonderry town officials reached general consensus on permitted uses for the area and dimensional standards for the town’s Route 28 Performance Overlay District (POD) surrounding Exit 5.
The area encompasses most of the property fronting on Route 28 from Symmes and Vista Ridge drives all the way east to Interstate 93 and Exit 5. According to the town’s Small Area Master Plan, which was adopted in September 2009, town officials had already agreed that a main priority is to protect the overall appearance of Route 28 “as an important gateway to Londonderry.”
The plan dictates that removal of the existing Route 28 Performance Overlay District at Exit 5 may be considered, with one possibility being the
 creation of a Gateway Business District.
The plan further recommended allowing higher density and clustering with mixed land use permitted surrounding Exit 5.
During discussions on appropriate development for that section of town last spring, members of the Planning Board agreed some preferable uses for the area might be cultural and performing arts centers, business centers, conference centers, financial institutions, vocational training facilities, child care and assisted living.

Schools not LOL over cell phone use in class

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Just over a year after the school district issued a policy asking students to leave their cell phones at home, a large number of recent high school and middle school discipline incidents have, not surprisingly, concerned cell phone usage. During the Feb. 15 School Board meeting, school administrators shared highlights of documented disciplinary incidents at the middle school and high school so far this school year.
At Londonderry Middle School, there were a total of 303 incidents during the first semester, up from 193 last year. Thirty-eight of this year’s incidents
 were listed as “misuse of electronic devices,” while another 61 of the incidents stemmed from “disturbing school atmosphere.”
Still, the district’s policy of intolerance when it comes to cell phone usage seems to be resonating with students.
Middle School Assistant Principal Wendy Hastings noted that so far only two students
 have received a second warning for cell phone violations.
At Londonderry High School, there were a total of 592 disciplinary incidents this year, compared to last year’s 424. Among this year’s incidents, 131 were considered “misuse of electronic devices,” while 42 incidents stemmed from “disturbing school atmosphere.”
“Misuse of electronic devices”
 offenses weren’t logged during the previous school year, since until the start of 2010 such behavior wasn’t considered a disciplinary infraction.
“Our total incidents are up this year mostly because we instituted our cell phone policy. So we’re really only up 37 incidents from last semester,” said
 high school Assistant Principal Wendy Hastings.

Faced with a growing number of children sending text messages or checking their e-mails during class time, school administrators issued a new policy around this time last year, suggesting students leave their electronic gadgets at home or at least have the courtesy to shut them off once class begins.
In January 2010, Londonderry High School Principal Jason Parent sent letters home to parents, asked them to refrain from sending text messages or e-mails to their children during school hours.
The Londonderry High School student handbook states: “Musical devices are only to be used during a student’s lunch or study. They should not be used, or displayed in classrooms or other locations outside the cafĂ© or study hall area.”
Another section of the handbook notes “the use of cell phones and pagers is not permitted” and those students who use or display such items in the classroom are subject to “disciplinary action including, but not limited to, confiscation of the devices.” As it stands now, violating either policy leads to the confiscation of any offending devices.
Cell phones and electronic devices may not be used in any classrooms at Londonderry’s schools, including the Library Media Center, unless curriculum dictates. Students are permitted to use their devices, including iPods and other musical devices, on their own time, in the cafeteria and in the hallways.
However, Parent warned that if cell phone usage in the classroom continues to be a problem, it could eventually lead to a school-wide prohibition of all such electronic devices.

$3.7 million proposed for 2012 projects

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- After a shuffling of proposed projects, the town’s updated Capital Improvement Plan calls for $3.7 million in funding for 2012.
Derry Chief Financial Officer Frank Childs presented the town’s CIP proposal for fiscal years
 2012 to 2017 to the Planning Board Wednesday night. The plan establishes a rough timeline for completing capital projects requested from department heads. 

“These are the needs that ultimately need to be met,” said Childs at Wednesday’s meeting. “The question of when they will actually be funded in the operating budget will depend on the available funds and the ability to bond.” 
In last year’s budgetproposal, the CIP for 2012 called for $17.5 million in project funding, said Childs. But after staff restructured the proposal this time around, that number has been brought down to $3.7 million. 
The largest changes to the 2012 plan come from projects that were pushed out to coincide with other work in the area. 
For example, the million-dollar reconstruction of a portion of Rockingham Road was moved to 2014 to synchronize with sewer extension to the area of Ryan’s Hill on Route 28, which is slated for the same timeframe. 
A $5.4 million plan to extend sewer to Sunset Acres has also been pushed back to 2014 to coincide with the water and sewer extension on Route 28, according to the CIP document. Construction of a $3 million Warner Hill water tank was also moved to 2014. 
Engineering work for the Route 28 wastewater systems is scheduled for 2012 at $1.2 million, according to the plan. 
The culvert on Drew Road had been slated for replacement in 2012, but its failure last March forced an earlier reconstruction this year. That $300,000 has been removed from the 2012 proposal. 
Money has also been put into the plan for replacing portable and mobile police radios. The $275,000 would replace radios that are either no longer supported by the manufacturer or set to expire in March 2012, according to the document. 
To balance that request, the $150,000 replacement of police base radio equipment has been pushed out to 2015. 
Town Administrator John Anderson reiterated Wednesday that the CIP is only a preliminary guideline as staff move into the budget process. 
“Until we go through the budgets for the town and individual departments, we don’t have a real good handle on what sort of money is available,” he said. 

Rotary Club hopes to race toward pot of gold

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Members of the Londonderry Rotary Club are hoping the luck of the Irish will be with them next month when they embark on the club’s newest fundraiser: an Irish-themed 5K road race.
The first annual Pot O’Gold Run will take place on Saturday,
 March 19, starting at 2 p.m.
“Much like our golf tournament, we’ll raise needed funds through sponsorships and the fees charged to runners,” Rotary President Terry McCormick said last week.
McCormick said he’s hoping the new Rotary fundraiser will
 catch on with local runners, noting that similar local races have had impressive turnouts.
“Just a few years ago, the Derry Turkey Trot had just a few hundred runners,” he said. “But this past Thanksgiving, they had over
 1,700. There’s some great potential here.” All proceeds from the race will benefit the club’s charitable giving program. The local Rotary sponsors such organizations as Warm Homes, The Sonshine Soup Kitchen, St. Jude’s Food Pantry, the YMCA and the Fred Ball Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Millennium Running, an events-management company founded by Londonderry native John Mortimer, is organizing the event.
Runners may register online at www.potogoldrun.com.
 Advance registration is $25 for those aged 11 and older, and $15 for children aged 10 and under.
Fashionably late runners may also register on the day of the race for $35 per adult runner, or $15 per child.
The race’s start and finish is in the Londonderry Home Depot parking lot in front of the Ninety-Nine Restaurant. The course makes a quick
 3 ⁄ 4-mileloop back to the start before heading through the neighborhood south of Route 102.
Cash awards to the top three male and female runners, as well as prizes for top runners in
seven different age groups, will be awarded during a special ceremony at the Ninety-Nine Restaurant immediately following the race. Runners will also have the opportunity to vie for many different raffle prizes, while those of legal drinking age can savor a complimentary brew.
According to Rotarian Reed Clark, corporate sponsors are still being sought at Silver and Bronze levels.
A $500 Silver sponsorship includes registration for two race participants. At $200, a Bronze sponsorship, like the Silver,
means the company’s logo will be included on all race fliers and on the race’s website.
The upcoming race has already gained Platinum sponsorship from Ameriprise Financial, Gold sponsorship from Lombardi & Lombardi Family Dentistry and Parkland Medical Center, Silver sponsorship from the Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub, and Bronze sponsorship from Londonderry Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, Hampshire First Bank, Enterprise Bank, Dunkin’ Donuts and the New Hampshire
Fisher Cats. 

February 17, 2011

Planning Department fee upgrade 'long overdue'

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Starting today, there will be some changes to the planning department fee schedule after adjustments found quick approval from the Planning Board last night.
It’s been about five years
 since the fees had been updated, and Planning Director George Sioras said that Derry rates had fallen out of line with actual costs and fees in other communities.
“These fees are more consistent to reflect the amount of time engineering and staff put into doing plans,” said Sioras at last night’s meeting. “This will also help us with some additional revenue for the planning office and our budget, and we need to do that.”
Under the new fee program, developers will be asked to pay separately for a project’s external review at a cost to be determined by the planning department, according to a staff document outlining the changes.
Conversely, developers used to pay a separate fee to cover internal staff reviews. That work will now be funded as part of the regular application fee,
 according to the document. 

Several changes have been made to fee amounts and a full list is available at the town’s website, www.derry.nh.us. 
For example, developers will now pay $.15 per square foot of new commercial or industrial construction up to a $10,000 limit, as opposed to the prior fee of $350 plus $100 per lot and $500 per acre of disruption. 
On projects requiring a legal notice, applicants will pay $50 where no fee existed. 
Lot line adjustments used to cost $20 per lot or unit, but under the new fee schedule developers will pay $100 per lot. 
Department fees have also been added for change in use forms and technical review committees, at $25 and $50 per application, respectively. 
No one from the public spoke to the proposed changes during the Wednesday night meeting and board members unanimously approved the measure. 
“It looks good,” said Derry Planning Board Chairman David Granese. “You guys did a lot of hard work.” 
Sioras said the planning department had been working with staff in finance and public works for several months to develop the plan.