During the public comment segment of Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Londonderry Historical Society secretary Sue Joudrey and member Ann Chiampa raised concerns the society has with the proposed cut to its budget.
Joudrey said the $1,000 proposed recently by Town Manager Kevin Smith to be cut from its budget was disconcerting, as the society has “things to pay for such as electric bills, ADT security and insurance.”
As previously reported, Smith said he proposed reducing $1,000 from the Morrison House to pay for the increase to CHS (Derry Community Health Services), the entity that manages the town’s General Assistance program.
Finance Director Sue Hickey said the Historical Society’s budget was $7,500; with the proposed reduction, it would be $6,500.
Joudrey said “a hit like that” hinders the society’s efforts to get the Rev. Morrison House rebuilt. The pieces of the house are stored in trailer boxes on a concrete foundation that has been built for it at the Historical Society grounds.
Chiampa said she didn’t understand how the town “has excess funds to give away to some groups, but for another group, the Londonderry Historical Society, the all-volunteer organization entrusted by this town to steward the historical collections and maintain the group of historic buildings on the Morrison Museum grounds, needed budget funds would be slashed, without even contacting the Society or its president, Heather Rojo.”
She said this past year an $800 software program was purchased for the volunteer curator to use to acquire, organize, document, categorize, and archive all the pieces of local history entrusted to the society’s care.
She also noted that the Morrison House and Parmenter Barn were painted this year at a cost of approximately $6,000. She said the carriage shed adjacent to the barn was constructed this summer at a cost of approximately $8,000.
“The Reverend Morrison house was taken down and moved from its site on Gilcreast Road with the intention of procuring grants to reconstruct it,” Chiampa said. “Unfortunately, it was found that basically, once you move the structure, it’s not considered ‘historical’ to the grant funders, it’s just, basically, an old building. And grant funding is very limited. The Londonderry Historical Society members put their heart and soul into all their hard work and efforts.”
She said the proposed cut would make rebuilding the Reverend Morrison House that much harder.
Chiampa also read from a letter from Rojo, who could not attend the meeting due to an injury.
“We are a very small historical society with a very tight budget, trying to preserve the rich and varied story of Londonderry’s past,” the letter states. “With our budget we are trying to run a museum complex with four very old buildings that need constant maintenance, repair, insurance and vigilance, and we are trying to raise a fifth building. The Reverend Morrison House is the oldest home in Londonderry, dating to the 1730s, and we would like to see it on its foundations instead of inside container truck trailers in hundreds of pieces.”
“The Old Home Day Committee usually donates $500 towards bringing in Captain Morrill’s company (for Old Home Day), and the Londonderry Historical Society donates another $100,” Rojo wrote. “This assures that the militia will return to Old Home Day, and it pays their expenses towards food, black powder, insurance, etc., to march in the parade and to hold their weekend encampment.”
Rojo said that losing their main attraction for Old Home Day would also lead to fewer people visiting the Morrison House Museum complex, and the society would thus lose revenue through other fund raising efforts that go towards the reconstruction of the Reverend Morrison House.
Rojo wondered if Captain Morrill’s company, which appears on the Historical Society grounds during Old Home Day, would be able to return with the reduced funding. “Every year the children of Londonderry ask if they will be able to participate in the militia drills at the Morrison House on Old Home Day,” Rojo wrote. “Residents always ask if the Capt. Morrill’s company will be there so they can see the encampment, ask questions, and discuss the Revolutionary War with reenactors cooking, working and doing crafts. Losing our ability to fund these reenactors would not only be a financial loss towards our goal of raising the Reverend Morrison house, but it would also be a disappointment to history buffs, young and old.”
Councilor Tom Dolan suggested that the property was on the town’s insurance and that there could be a savings there. Chairman John Farrell said the town manager would check into it.
Farrell suggested the society meet with Smith and see what could be done.
“Let’s see if maybe he can come up with $1,000,” Farrell said. “It’s his budget at the end of the day. Let’s see what the hard costs are and see if we can work with these folks.”