By Chris Paul
DERRY – The Derry Town Council met late last month at the Derry Opera House for an informal workshop session to discuss upcoming goals for the town of Derry.
The workshop started with Greater Derry Arts Council board member, Mike Gendron, thanking the council for holding the meeting at the Opera House and expressing a need to rehabilitate the stage area of the building.
Derry Arts Council member Jim Brown was also attending the workshop and took some time to explain what is needed for the stage project.
Brown explained that the group has been pursuing grants to fund the project and they have performed a building survey to quantify elevation issues and to verify structural conditions.
They determined that the stage is off by as much as three-inches in some areas.
Brown explained that there are three Rehab options. One would be to rehabilitate the Existing Framing, another would be to remove and replace all the stage framing. The third option would be to Support the stage exclusively from existing plenum area.
The timeframe on the project was that the group initially hoped to start in July or August, but they run into some complications, so realistically they’re hoping to start in the winter. Brown added that the project should take between four and six weeks.
Next, Town Administrator Dave Caron went through a list of priorities that the town has been looking at over the past few years.
The top three included Hood Park Revitalization, the development of a Parking Garage at Abbott Court, finalizing zoning enhancements and pursuing development along West Broadway and to complete Collective Bargaining Agreements.
There were a number of other projects discussed as lower priorities ranging from Developing areas of West Running Brook, building a Senior Center and extending the Rail Trail.
The board then went into discussing 2022 goals, member Neal Wetherbee started with the idea of being vigilant with the town’s fight against milfoil in area water bodies. Beaver Lake has a group of volunteers that currently monitor the invasive weed, but a suggestion was made to bring the Conservation Commission into the long-term plan.
Brian Chirichello brought up his concerns with the problems that are going to be created from the Exit 4A construction and how many properties will be impacted from that. He also mentioned concerns that he had heard about traffic being diverted from Broadway when Exit 4A construction is complete.
He felt that currently there is a lot of traffic headed onto the side roads and wanted to see more traffic enforcement.
He also brought up future plans of Hood Pond and felt the town should continue with the town’s efforts there saying that he felt it is an economic development driver.
Erin Spencer, representing District One, felt that her number one goal is to increase response times to residents in her area.
She also mentioned having water lines continued to the Ryan’s Hill area, saying that there are currently issues developing along those lines.
Spencer added that she felt overall the playgrounds in town should be accessible to everyone.
Phyllis Katsakioris focused on the town’s senior needs. She thought that the board should be looking at examining tax breaks for the town’s seniors and also felt that they should have access to some helping-hands services.
She added that she would like to see flags displayed along Broadway also.
Charlie Foote, representing District Two, wanted to come up with a plan for making conservation areas more accessible, he mentioned that parking is an issue for some of the sites, but maybe something could be figured out in that regard.
Signage for those areas was also discussed at length and it was determined that Derry Cable and the Conservation Commission should be brought into the discussion.
Councilor Josh Bourdon joined in the brainstorming with his continued efforts to have the town and schools to become net zero on energy use. His hope is that this effort would inevitably result in lower taxes.
He said his number one goal is to have the towns and schools produce as much energy as the use. He also stressed a need for a safety complex, saying that the Police Station is in need of an upgrade and it would be a perfect time to combine fire and police in one facility.
The last item Bourdon mentioned was a non-binding ballot question on how the residents of Derry feel about legalizing cannabis.
Wetherbee echoed the need for both the cannabis question and the Police Station upgrade plan.
Council Chair Jim Morgan also agreed with Bourdon on the Safety Complex, saying that interest rates would never be better and history shows that most town’s that vote down buildings the first time will eventually pay more down the road.
Also discussed was the ongoing revitalization plan for Hood Park.
Nearly 20 goals will be implemented over the next year, which includes new signage, hockey boards, backboards, a small fishing dock and a fountain. The playground will be upgraded, picnic tables added as well as a pickleball court.
The playground area is expected to include a new splash pad also.
There are plans underway for the West Running Brook Ball Field also.
The estimated cost would be $2.4 million, and would include new lighting dugouts fencing and resurfacing, but council direction is needed for implementation.
Eventually, the board decided to form a sub-committee to go through what funds would be available and what options there would be funding some of these goals.
They were hoping to start formulating a plan in September.