Where do we go from here?

Reached by phone Wednesday morning, Oct. 14, Council Chairman Tom Cardon said, “I’m glad for the large turnout, even though we lost.”

Cardon reiterated his statement that there will be no further petitions, appeals or lawsuits. “We need to move forward,” he said. “The community needs to heal.”

He addressed some of the more notable gaps in the voting, including the 1,004-vote difference between those who want to reopen a fire station and those who want to keep it closed. “People obviously want the fire station opened,” he said. His personal preference is to reopen Hampstead Road, which closed July 1, and move the Central Fire Station west or south so it can serve more of the population.

He was also interested to note the number of people who didn’t want the Human Resources job reinstated. There was a 57-vote gap between the pro-HR Director and those who didn’t see the need, and he credited that in part to Acting Town Administrator Susan Hickey, who had taken on HR in addition to her original job as Chief Financial Officer.

“Sue has done a good job, and shown the voters that we don’t need that position,” Cardon said. But because of the vote total, “That is still what the people want,” he said.

Cardon, who voted for the controversial tax cuts, said he will still fight for lower taxes “as long as I’m in Derry.”

But he said he won’t have much latitude under the current budget. The $1.6 million that was the result of the tax cuts will have to go back in to the budget, which has not yet been sent to the state to set the tax rate. It is not a supplemental appropriation but will be added to the budget by Council vote, which was expected to take place at the Tuesday, Oct. 20 meeting, after the Nutfield News went to press.

The taxpayers will still see a $1.04 reduction on the tax rate due to budget cuts and savings that were not part of the petitions, Cardon said.

The logistics have not yet been worked out as to how and when a fire station will be reopened, who will fill the HR position, and other matters.

“This is all new territory for all of us,” Cardon said.

Asked what the tax rate would be with the eight items restored, Hickey said in an email, “It is on the agenda to discuss (at the Tuesday, Oct. 20 Town Council meeting). The Town Council needs to discuss whether the restored items are to be done through taxation or use of fund balance. Once that decision is known, we will be closer to setting a tax rate.”

Wetherbee, one of the architects of the petitions, said on he was “ecstatic” at the results.

“This is what we hoped would happen all along,” he said the morning after the election.

To Wetherbee, the victory at the polls represented the will of the people. “It is a reflection of what happened in the pre-budget meetings,” he said, adding, “The Council had an opportunity to listen at that time. Yesterday’s vote reflected that.”

Wetherbee had said all along that what he and the others wanted was a chance for the people to make their wishes known.

He attributed the closeness of the vote to a last-minute push by Americans For Prosperity, which did phone cold-calls in favor of keeping the cuts. “It’s easy to put out a dumbed-down message,” Wetherbee said. “But the ‘Yes’ supporters also want lower taxes. Where they differ is how we get there.”

Wetherbee, a former Town Councilor, admitted to being stunned by the closeness of the HR Director vote. “Who runs a $40 million organization without an HR director?” he asked.

There are other cuts to the budget that weren’t part of the petitions, and Wetherbee said he could live with them. But he remained concerned about an appropriation of almost $700,000 from the Unexpended Fund Balance, which he predicted would come back and bite the town next year. “It is not sustainable,” he said. “Next year we’ll be $700,000 in the hole.”

The Council terms of Cardon, Mark Osborne and Albert Dimmock, all of whom voted for the budget cuts in May, along with David Fischer, expire in 2016, and Wetherbee said he has spoken to people who are interested in challenging them.

“The 6,000 voters,” he said, “are our new normal. We wound up with this Council because the people were asleep.”