The Town of Londonderry saw another year filled with celebrations, progress, school events and achievements. The Town made significant progress with the commercial development on Pettengill Road and proposed a budget that would decrease the tax rate for the second year in a row, while Matthew Thornton Elementary School was recognized with the Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence and Londonderry High School ranked among the top 10 public high schools in New Hampshire.
Perhaps the most inspiring story was the Market Basket takeover in the summer months. After hundreds of workers and patrons boycotted Market Basket stores for weeks, calling for the return of beloved CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas, Arthur S. DeMoulas sold his shares to his cousin, ending the strike and restoring harmony to the supermarket chain.
The victory was called a win for the middle class and restored faith in a business model that values company relationships between employers and employees, as well as those between co-workers and with customers.
Market Basket Saga
When Market Basket Chief Executive Officer Arthur T. DeMoulas was ousted by his cousin Arthur S. DeMoulas and replaced with co-CEOs James Gooch and Felicia Thornton, employees of stores throughout the region rallied for the replacement of their leader.
Standing outside the Garden Lane store in Londonderry, employees held signs that read, “Our Boss the Only Boss ATD” and encouraged patrons to boycott the grocery until Artie T. was allowed to return to his position as CEO. By the end of July, Market Basket customers had joined the fight for Artie T.’s return.
At the end of August, Arthur T., who previously owned a 49.5 percent share in Market Basket, signed a contract to purchase the 50.5 percent of the company’s remaining shares from his cousin and delivered a speech to his loyal employees and customers expressing his gratitude for their loyalty.
The receipts of customers who paid higher prices at other grocery retailers to support the employee’s efforts to return Artie T. to his position at the helm of the company were displayed in the windows of Market Basket stores.
When it was time to return to work, Lemieux said his employees were happy to be back and said Aug. 28 was “a very emotional day.” The sale agreement was finalized in December.
Customer Katie Wilhelm called the victory a win for middle class America. “It’s standing up for everything this country stands for and has fought for,” she said.
School District Considers Building Auditorium
The School Board approved sending to the March 2015 ballot a warrant article asking voters for $500,000 to fund architecture and engineering services for the proposed construction of a Community Auditorium at the high school.
It’s anticipated the 28,800-square-foot facility would cost the Town around $8.9 million, with the project to be broken into two phases: the architecture and engineering services and construction of the auditorium. If the warrant article to fund architecture and engineering for the project passes, a Building Committee would be created.
Despite efforts of the Auditorium Committee to rally support for the project at school functions, the proposed auditorium has received mixed reviews.
Members of the music community expressed strong support at a School Board meeting, urging the Board to send the architecture and engineering costs to the voters, but taxpayers called into question the School Board’s decision to start the process.
Auditorium Committee Chairman Tony DeFrancesco said an increase in taxes shouldn’t dissuade residents from supporting construction of the auditorium, noting it’s “not cheap to live in a full-service community.”
Finance Director Sue Hickey Resigns, Hired by Derry
The Town of Londonderry paid former Finance Director Susan Hickey $64,000 as part of a settlement agreement reached in December after she submitted a letter of resignation Dec. 1.
Town Manager Kevin Smith confirmed Dec. 8 that he placed Hickey on administrative leave and advised her he was terminating her employment. After exercising her right to a public hearing before the Town Council, Hickey withdrew her request, having reached an agreement with the Town regarding her separation from employment.
On Dec. 2, the Derry Town Council confirmed Hickey as the Town’s new Chief Financial Officer.
Smith said currently the Finance Director’s responsibilities are being handled by controller Doug Smith.
New Hampshire’s first finding of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in the summer of 2014 was in Londonderry. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ announced the discovery of a mosquito infected with EEE in Londonderry on Aug. 15, right in the middle of the Town’s Old Home Day Celebration.
But the finding didn’t stop the weeklong activities from going off without a hitch, according to Town Manager Kevin Smith. “We had one of our best parades yet, and no one stayed away,” he said.
State’s Fourth Worst Storm-Related Power Outage Puts Town in Dark
The State’s fourth most significant storm-related power outage left thousands of Londonderry residents in the dark on Thanksgiving.
Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said 3,100 Londonderry residents were without power at the height of the storm on Nov. 27. Efforts to restore power to the Town’s 10,570 customers were substantially complete by Sunday morning, according to Public Service of New Hampshire.
The Londonderry and Derry Fire Departments worked in conjunction with A Londonderry Emergency Response Team (ALERT) to open a shelter at the Londonderry High School gymnasium early Thanksgiving evening, offering those without power a warm place to stay, showers and a hot meal. Six people stayed at the shelter, with two people staying overnight on Nov. 28, when temperatures dropped. An additional 18 people used the showers and about 11 stopped in for a meal and to recharge their mobile phones. The shelter closed Nov. 29.
Residents Resist Workforce Housing Developments
After hearing the concerns of several residents who spoke against a proposed workforce housing development on Stonehenge Road, the Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to deny all three variance requests related to the project.
The decision was a significant step towards managing the number of workforce housing projects coming into Londonderry.
At the Dec. 18 public hearing for the 288-unit apartment complex, residents called for the town to take inventory of workforce housing units currently available and under construction before granting variances for another project.
According to State Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, who served on the Affordable Workforce Housing Board and voted against the legislation in 2008, the Workforce Housing law was designed for regional use. Derry, Manchester, Litchfield and other areas surrounding Londonderry already offer a high percentage of workforce housing rental units, he said. Londonderry also offers homes for purchase that are under the median.
Pettengill Road To Be Completed ‘With No Burden to Taxpayer’
“This is a project that has been a decade in the making,” Town Manager Kevin Smith said of Pettengill Road. “Now seeing it come together, and being almost entirely paid for by private dollars, I think is quite an accomplishment.”
Smith announced at the Aug. 11 Town Council meeting that Pettengill Road is being completed without town funds. The road will be completed by landowners, with a commitment from Prologis to build 1,800 feet of the two-lane road, starting at the airport access road, to open up the UPS/Pratt & Whitney site.
Property tax revenues on UPS alone are anticipated to be approximately $800,000 in the first year.
A Tax Increment Finance District (TIF) was set up for the area, which is to fund a $250,000 traffic light installed by the landowners. A sewer system will be built by the town and paid for with user fees.
Hazmat Course Prepares Firefighters for Ebola
The Londonderry Fire Department completed a refresher course on handling Hazardous Materials with a component addressing the Ebola outbreak in October. The Ebola outbreak has killed thousands of people in West Africa and became a concern as international travelers and healthcare workers to the region returned to the U.S. with the virus.
With an airport in town, Battalion Chief Jim Roger said it was important the department was prepared to care for infected patients and contain contagion.
Criminal Charges Dismissed, Battalion Chief Resigns
Charges against Fire Battalion Chief Douglas Cardwell related to alleged harassment were dropped in November after he accepted a negotiated resolution and resigned his position with the Fire Department.
Cardwell, 48, had been on paid administrative leave since he was arrested in September on four misdemeanor counts of making harassing telephone calls to his girlfriend’s ex-husband.
Cardwell was a member of the Fire Department for 28 years.