By Paul Conyers
The Utilities Committee came together for its first-ever meeting March 22.
The Utilities Committee was only recently approved by the Town Council, and its first order of business was choosing officers. After a brief debate, Lynn Wiles was named Chair and Martha Smith Vice Chair due to their experience in other Londonderry committees. John Ferreira was named Secretary.
Members also discussed some of the goals for their new Committee, many of which will carry over from the Energy Efficiency Task Force, which focused on gas and electricity.
“We made good progress,” said member, Ray Breslin, referring to the old Task Force. “Now the Utility Committee covers a lot of other things like water, natural gas, and other fuels. There’s a lot of things to look at.”
Overall, their mandate is to make recommendations to Londonderry regarding the cost, reliability, and availability of utilities including heating oil and electricity. Each Committee member specializes in a different utility.
“My background is in mechanical engineering,”said member and new Londonderry resident, Jeff McGraw. “I want to make sure we can get the best water, power, Internet, and whatever utilities we need for the people of Londonderry, that’s why I’m involved.”
Lynn Wiles brought up NH’s Right-to-Know law to new members and cautioned them about discussing business outside official meetings. Four or more members coming to talk about business anywhere can be considered a public meeting under state law. He also reminded everybody that personal communication is a matter of public record, while advising every Committee member to use their town emails for official business.
Wiles also asked everyone to send him their availability for future meetings. Most members wanted to meet on the third Wednesday of every month, although there was no consensus.
Wiles also noted that the Committee had a broad reach with too many potential issues for seven people to cover in a year. Other businesses included information gathering to review priorities.
“Could we get in touch with the town to get and have copies of the utility contracts put on the website or somewhere we can look at them?” asked McGraw. “We need to think about natural gas, water, electricity, fuel, propane, Internet, sewage, hazardous waste, contaminants, solid waste, storm drains, roads, protect lands, cable…that’s a lot of stuff!”
He added that the Utilities Committee would not and could not cover everything at once, focusing instead on creating a few subcommittees to focus on six key areas.
While not directly part of their mandate, member, Anne Fenn, also called for the inclusion of local Superfund sites. The Auburn Road Landfill has been on the federal list of Superfund cleanup sites since 1981, and while there are no short-term health risks from the site, clean-up is still incomplete.
Meetings for the Utilities Committee are set to happen once a month at 7 p.m., in the Moose Hill Council Chambers. The April meeting date is to be determined.