Three Seek Two Open Seats on Londonderry Town Council

Running for two, three-year open positions on the Town Council in the March 8 election are incumbents Tom Dolan and John Farrell, and Edward Combes. Each candidate was asked: “Do you think it’s appropriate to use taxpayer money to facilitate private development projects that grow the tax base?”

Edward “Ted” Combes

Age: 29

Occupation: Business Development

Years in Londonderry: 25

Elected experience: Budget Committee, three years (chairman two years), Master Plan Implementation Committee and Planning Board.

Answer: “Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Districts are a double-edged sword. Certainly, there are members in the public who are against putting money aside for roads and private developers; but still, it’s hard to argue with the development we’ve been able to get out of Pettengill Road and it could be an example for the rest of the state. And we did not have to wait long for construction to come to that area, or for the developments to come online.

“There are some who believe if you build it, they will come; while others believe if you own the land you should do everything with it, even if it will become a public road at some point.

“I like both sides of the argument, but in this situation we had with Pettengill, it has shown it has worked.”

Tom Dolan

Age: 60

Years in Londonderry: 30 years

Occupation: Engineering Director

Elected Experience: Town Councilor (four terms), Budget Committee

Answer: “If we do it carefully, we can benefit the Town.

“The Pettengill Road development costed out to around $12 to $13 million, and that would have been a tremendous burden on local taxpayers.

“Some folks say developers will eventually come and when the time is right, they’ll pay for the development. The way I look at it, it’s more than just a simple math equation.

“If we’re looking to get for a particular development $1 million in tax revenue for the community, we can, in one scenario, do nothing and just wait and see if that happens five years from now; or, in the most recent case, we found a way to get that $13 million development done for an exposure to the taxpayers of only $250,000. We created a development agreement where other people had skin in the game and reduced the exposure of the taxpayers. We can wait and do nothing and get that $1 million in tax revenue from that first development in five years, or we can spend $250,000 now and get that tax revenue next year for $1 million. By spending $250,000, we have $5 million by year five. Not spending $250,000 would have cost us $4 million in lost revenue.

“It’s really an accelerator; it accelerates revenue for the taxpayers using these formulas and using these economic tools that the State has put in place for us. In the end, the residential taxpayers get a benefit much faster than they would otherwise. Now we have had the tax rate go down for two years in a row, which is directly attributed to the development up and around Pettengill Road.”

John Farrell

Age: 55

Occupation: Software sales

Years in Londonderry: 23

Elected experience: Town Council, two terms; Planning Board, 11 years

Answer: “The money from the Tax Increment Finance District was not used for private development; it was actually used for public improvement that’s beneficial to the town.

“The Pettengill TIF was a $250,000 investment for a $1.8 million return in one year, which equates to $36 million in 20 years. Instead of losing that opportunity, we had a tightly managed TIF that provided a great tax benefit to the Town, including lowering taxes; but more importantly, the tax money spent was to repay the developer only for public improvements that were beneficial to the Town.

“We put no money upfront and only if we agree by contract that this is a good beneficial improvement for the Town would we move forward with it.

“If you look at the other TIFs around the State, they open TIFs and leave them open for years. We give a start and finish date so the taxpayers get the benefit as soon as possible and the TIFs are tightly managed.”

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