The Londonderry Capital Improvement Committee has prioritized projects for the Fire Department, Conservation, Public Works and School District, and will present them to the Planning Board for a September workshop and an October public hearing.
The committee met Aug. 8 in Council Chambers, chaired by John Farrell, and rated each prospective project on its scoring system before assigning priorities. Of the projects presented, the Central Fire Station was deemed the most urgent in priority, receiving a Priority 1 rating.
The committee rates projects on the following scale: Priority 1, urgent, cannot be delayed; Priority 2, necessary, needed within three years to maintain basic level and quality of services; Priority 3, desirable, needed within four to six years to improve quality or level of services; and Priority 4, deferrable, can be placed on hold beyond scope of current CIP (Capital Improvement Plan), but supports community goals.
The committee is working on the next schedule from 2018 to 2023.
The following projects were evaluated:
Central Fire Station
Fire Chief Darren O’Brien spoke to the needs of the David A. Hicks Central Fire Station, which was built in 1978 by a combination of town staff and fire personnel. Over time, he said, it has become inadequate for the updated equipment and apparatus and in creased number of personnel. “We are,” he said, “bursting at the seams.”
The placeholder figure he gave the committee is $4 million, O’Brien said, adding that this year they hope to do engineering studies as to whether it can or can’t be renovated and what can be done on that footprint.
“We will come back next year with a plan,” he said.
The committee gave the Fire Station a priority rating of 1.
Auditorium: Though the proposal for preliminary costs of a community auditorium based at Londonderry High School failed two years ago at the ballot box, Peter Curro, business manager for School Administrative Unit (SAU) 12 and Nathan Greenberg, superintendent, pointed out that the need has not gone away.
Curro said the high school was built with the intention of adding an auditorium “at some point.” The current building does not offer adequate space for practices or performances of the school’s many music and drama groups.
The room would also work for traditional academics, Curro said, noting that large classes could meet in the auditorium.
“The gym was built as a gym,” he said. “It was not designed for a multi-purpose event.”
The auditorium was listed as a deficiency in the district’s most recent NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) evaluation, he added.
“The need,” Curro said, “is still there.”
He pointed out that other bonding projects, including the police station, took two or three votes to pass.
Curro said the auditorium project will be capped at 800 seats, because beyond that they get into a new level of building codes and functions.
Member Rick Brideau noted that Woodmont Commons is supposed to have a performing arts center. But member Mary Wing Soares countered that it’s important to have the auditorium on school property, with less wear-and-tear on equipment when they don’t have to carry items back and forth.
Greenberg also pointed out that a Woodmont auditorium would limit the district in its uses.
In addition to use by LHS students, Matthew Thornton Elementary School and Londonderry Middle School students could walk to the proposed facility, he said.
But Farrell warned that some community sentiment is still against the proposal. “I have people walking up to me, I have phone calls,” he said. “They say, ‘We said no, why do they keep bringing it back?’”
Farrell said that in itself the auditorium is neither a good nor a bad idea. But, he said, “These are the people who vote.”
The auditorium was given a “3” priority.
New SAU office: The SAU building was originally connected to an identical building that housed police and town offices. When the town rebuilt the Municipal Center, the other building was torn down and the School District portion remained. It is cramped, outdated and a health hazard, according to Curro.
But CIP members questioned the proposed price tag of $3.7 million. “That needs a lot of explaining,” Steve Young, vice-chair, said, noting that the Municipal Center was built for $2.1 million and was part of a $5.2 million bond including some open space projects, Young said.
He accounted for inflation. “Yes, it’s been 15 years, but $3.7 million is still a large number,” he said.
Curro said the working number includes a purchase of land.
“There has to be data to support that,” Farrell said.
Curro agreed to have more specific data for next year’s CIP, based on recent construction costs.
“We can carry this number tonight, but we’ll need a more accurate amount when we go to the Planning Board,” Farrell said.
The new SAU building was assigned a priority of 2.
New elementary school: Curro and Greenberg referenced an enrollment projection that will bring another 315 students to the district over the next three years, through current and proposed housing developments. Of those 315, 65 percent are elementary students and of those, 29 percent are first-graders, Greenberg said.
They are asking $24 million for an elementary school, but added that it would be up to six years in the future.
Farrell pointed out that it would cost up to $15 million to run the school, with additional teachers, staff, furniture and resources. That could bring the cost up to $40 million, he said.
“The man or woman who votes will want to know the cost,” Farrell said.
Greenberg agreed, but said, “We don’t want to get to the point where, all of a sudden, we need this.” Enrollment is currently flat, but he is expecting an influx from new development, mostly in the north of town, which would impact North Elementary School, and an influx to Matthew Thornton of children from Woodmont Commons.
“If the trend continues, we will have to look at redistricting,” he said.
South School, the third elementary school, is a “wild card” right now, Greenberg said, but has a pad for two additional classrooms if needed. But North cannot be expanded because the fire lane now runs round the back, Curro said.
LEEP (Londonderry Early Education Program, the district preschool, is also a wild card, with a rolling enrollment.
Curro and Greenberg said they did not want to go back to the days when Matthew Thornton had 1,000 students and they were meeting in closets, hallways and the cafeteria.
Six years from now, will it be an emergency? Farrell asked.
“I’d say it will be an issue,” Curro responded.
The project was given a Priority 3.
Middle school expansion: Curro explained that the middle school was expanded in 1996, but the “core facilities” of cafeteria, kitchen, gym and library were not. Growing enrollment will put a strain on the facility, Curro predicted. He suggested the expansion be put on the same schedule as the elementary school, so they could bid them together for “economy of scale.”
Young said, “We don’t want kids eating lunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.”
This project was also given a Priority 3.
Water and Sewer
Bob Kerry, the town’s environmental engineer, presented two projects, the South Londonderry Interceptor and the Mammoth Road interceptor.
The South Londonderry project includes Area B, approximately 2,800 linear feet of 8- and 12-inch pipe in the area of the Apple Tree Mall and on the north side of Route 102, including 105 areas of commercial property and 53 housing units, and Area C, 230 acres, including 160 acres of commercial and 735 residential areas.
The Mammoth Road project includes replacing 1,000 linear feet of interceptor to accommodate growth in the Sanborn and Page roads area, including senior housing on Sanborn Road.
“We will eventually require new construction or upgrades to the existing system,” Kerry told the committee. “I want to keep it on the radar, so there aren’t any surprises.”
The project was also given a Priority 3.
Chairman Marge Badois and member Mike Speltz represented the Londonderry Conservation Commission. Speltz said the projects grew out of a shared desire of the Town Council and Commission to see more people use conservation land. Speltz reviewed the three phases of the project, including Phase I, identifying recreational improvements on six town-owned properties, done by the Arnett Development Group and completed in 2014; Phase II, with the Stantec company, refining that to four properties and evaluating the engineering feasibility and estimated cost; and Phase III, contracting for the highest payoff at the lowest cost.
The four properties identified in the Stantec study are Kendall Pond, the Musquash, Scobie Pond and Little Cohas.
It would cost $2 million to do all the projects suggested in the Stantec study, Speltz said, but added, “Nobody is suggesting we do this right now. It is not a health or safety threat.”
He said he expected to have more data by next year but added, “It is important for us to get the process started.”
The project was given a Priority 4 rating by the committee.
The CIP will be presented to the Planning Board in September, followed by a public hearing in October.