Once upon a time, some businessmen intent on making money decided to head north and craft a deal to access prime land in Derry and Londonderry. They found willing public officials in those towns, and the much touted Exit 4A off Interstate 93 was born.
It’s still a glint in developers’ eyes, primarily Londonderry and Woodmont Commons developers, in spite of the promise that it would do wonders for traffic – not so sure about business – in downtown Derry. But it’s nudging closer to the finish line – and the expenditure of $5 million each that Londonderry and Derry have agreed they are on the hook to pay. After all, the former developer filed a lawsuit whose settlement resulted in the $5 million obligation in 1990 – yes, that’s right, 26 years ago.
The Exit 4A song and dance routine got old years ago, but it keeps coming back to haunt the latest people sitting on the Town Councils of the two communities. This time it looks as if the exit might just get built, thanks to the current I-93 expansion project, assuming the new Environmental Impact Statement turns out well and there’s enough money to actually build it.
But because current officials have said they are required to honor the commitment made by their unknown predecessors and written down in unseen documents – indeed, Derry has said for years that its documents on Exit 4A obligations were “lost” – the exit is likely going to become a reality someday.
Decisions made decades ago by politicians who can no longer be held accountable – or even identified – are today continuing to cost the taxpayer considerable money. There’s a lot of squirming going on, but state officials, now in charge of the project, say neither town would be required to pay more than the $5 million they committed to so many years ago. At least we have the names of the people who are saying that sum won’t be exceeded by digging more deeply into the pockets of the taxpayers.
Incredibly poor governing, backroom deals, lack of accountability – all of those descriptions fit the checkered history of Exit 4A. When it’s built, it may or may not do all the things it was touted as being able to produce. But if it is built, it will stand as a model to how not to conduct the public’s business. And it will be a textbook example of what lack of transparency costs the taxpayer.
So when all is said and done, do you think the Derry and Londonderry taxpayers will live happily ever after?