By John Seidenberg
The Town Council has approved acceptance of unanticipated revenue from the NH Department of Environmental Services Drinking & Groundwater Trust Fund for the town’s purchase of the Moose Hill Orchards tract of land at 114 Pillsbury Rd.
Londonderry will soon be closing on that transaction, Town Solicitor Mike Malaguti noted at the council’s May 3 meeting. The first five acres, approved in a town warrant article in March, are being acquired for municipal purchases, and 23 acres for conservation care with some use restrictions.
The state wants to give the town $385,000 to protect drinking water sources, he said. Nearby wells are located in the Southview and Century Village condominium complexes, much of which overlaps with the conservation tract.
This grant money is only to fund the town’s purchase – through the Conservation Commission – of the conservation land adjacent to the Town Hall parcel. The trust fund has been willing to work with the town to address other potential uses, Malaguti added.
The sale of Moose Hill Orchards closed on April 30, Council Chairman John Farrell told the meeting. The new owner lives in Derry and intends on keeping all the same covenants in place within the conservation easement and working with the conservation commission on the other parcels, he said. The expectation is the land in front that the town is buying adjacent to the Town Hall will continue to be farmed.
The Mack family had farmed the land continuously since 1732, making Moose Hill Orchards, home of Mack’s Apples, the oldest single family run farm in the state.
The historic farmhouse and the house behind it will remain in the Mack family, Farrell added. Andy Mack will continue living in the house behind the farm.
In separate action, the council determined that beginning May 18 Town Hall employees may remove their face masks at work if they choose to. Plexiglas barriers in the building are expected to remain in place.
That is the date all town employees have indicated they will be fully vaccinated, said Town Manager Kevin Smith. They had expressed concern that the policy on masks not be changed before that occurred.
Those not vaccinated by then would be asked to wear a mask.
The council had received emails from an organization stating the town would implement a mask ordinance, Farrell said at the meeting. He pointed out Londonderry has no official ordinance mandating masks be worn nor intends to take such action.
When Gov. Chris Sununu announced expiration of the state’s mask mandate in April, localities and businesses retained the ability to still require they be worn.
Also at the meeting Londonderry Police Chief Bill Hart told the council COVID affected his department’s staffing substantially. Over the past year, it has been down more than 10 people. Some of that loss was allayed by moving officers from the Manchester-Boston Airport to the town given the empty positions.
Based on more recent passenger traffic, those offices are being reassigned back to the airport, Hart said. The department made additional hires in preceding months starting with Tyler MacDonald who joined at the end of 2019.
With current issues surrounding police work, it has faced more challenges, he stated. Two new additions are Joanna Phan, the only dispatcher ever offered a job as a police officer on the spot and who is now in field training, and Officer Brittany Reitze now at the police academy.