DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

December 27, 2012

Derry's top stories for 2012

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — The year 2012 in Derry was full of community spirit, destructive weather, town discussions and difficult votes.

New faces joined local the Legislature and many familiar ones stayed on to work at the state level. Volunteers reached out in force to lend a hand while businesses and organizations remained committed to helping make life better for those in need. Town officials pondered budgets and how to save money when things got tight.

Here are some of the top Derry stories in the news this year.

New transfer station planned

The year began with ideas of streamlining the town’s recycling efforts and transfer station. Officials pondered the design and construction of a new transfer station off Fordway and ultimately approved the plan that could cost about $3 million.

Public Works Director Michael Fowler and town recycling coordinator Joanie Cornetta told officials the current transfer station is outdated and could be made more efficient to help Derry save money by participating in more recycling.

“The existing transfer station is outdated,” Fowler said. “The building is not in good condition.”

That building dates back to 1980 and is too small for Derry’s population. There are also snags in traffic flow, and not enough shelter to keep materials from blowing around.

The town has a admirable recycling rate already, Fowler said — about 38 percent — but there is room for improvement with an expanded and updated facility.

Last year, the town recycled about 8,562 tons of trash. A new facility could bring in an added $200,000 in recycling savings, Fowler said.

Working in tandem with recycling efforts, the town’s Go Green Committee continued its quest to educate residents and offer information on ways to save money by “going green” and saving the environment.

Rail trail celebrates

Derry’s rail trail group put the finishing touches on the newest portion of the trail this summer.

During a rainy day ceremony, Derry Rail Trail Alliance members officially opened the trail leading through the downtown along historic railroad beds, down to the Windham town line and a portion of that town’s trail.

The group hopes to someday connect more of Derry’s trail system to areas of Londonderry and beyond.

The alliance formed in 2007 and is led by a board of directors keen on making the trail system a recreational haven for residents and visitors to enjoy.

The trail now has a pocket park area behind Sabatino’s Restaurant (in the former train depot building) and also a handmade kiosk built by Pinkerton Academy construction students to show visitors some of the trail’s features.

Charter school approved for 2013 opening

The year 2012 put the a plan for the town’s first charter school in motion. The NEXT charter school is scheduled to open in 2013 and will be Derry’s first charter high school.

The plan will give students an alternative to Pinkerton Academy and will accommodate up to 30 students in the first year. The school may take up to 90 students.

The school will cater to those students who may need an alternative way to learn.

NEXT will be housed in the former Derry Early Education Program space at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School. It will be led by a co-directing team of Justin Krieger and Joe Crawford, both currently serving as assistant principals in Derry middle schools.

There will also be a board of trustees to help lead the school.

Enrollment for the school is set to begin in January 2013. Kim Crowley, a NEXT trustee, said the school will offer a unique way for students to learn.

“It will be a very open, social communication,” she said. “Our goal is understanding.”

Adams Pond dam

proves divisive

A local scenic spot became a bit of a battleground between town officials and residents hoping to preserve history.

The plight of Adams Pond and its nearby dam was on more than one agenda this year, giving residents a chance to speak out both for and against a plan for the town to somehow save the privately owned dam from destruction.

The dam is owned by developer Jean Gagnon. He was cited by the state for his failing structure. Gagnon plans to build a subdivision near the dam along Adams Pond. He received town approvals for his development.

For the past year, officials listened to people on both sides of the dam issue. Some wanted to save the dam; others said the town shouldn’t spend money to help bail Gagnon out of his dam dilemma with the state.

Many residents worried about the state of the waters if the dam were to be removed. Gagnon offered the town a way to take over the dam’s ownership, but councilors said no.

The dam and pond remained on many residents radar through the end of the year, with continued efforts in place to somehow save the pond and its future.

Resident Ellie Sarcione spearheaded many citizen efforts to try to save the dam and pond. People were even willing to donate money to somehow help preserve the 300-year-old dam site and waters.

“This is a diamond — save it,” Sarcione said.

Route 28 project

winds down

The lanes are painted and the traffic is flowing.

That, according to town officials, is the best case scenario as the Route 28/Manchester Road widening plan finished up this year.

For many months, crews worked to widen portions of Manchester Road up past the Tsienneto Road intersection heading near the Londonderry town line.

With a new Walmart opening this year, the plan was to expand the roadway to help with traffic and better ways to navigate that busy corridor in town.

The hope is also to accommodate new businesses that may want to relocate there to add to the town’s economic development goals and success.

The project came in a little under the original $5.3 million price tag; officials touted its success.

“We are beginning to see the investments being made on Manchester Road,” Town Administrator John Anderson said.

Councilor Joel Olbricht said as he drives down Manchester Road he sees the fruits of everyone’s labor.

“It’s turning out really beautiful,” he said.

Hurricane Sandy

packs a punch

Almost a year to the day after the October 2011 snowstorm, another storm arrived to pack a big punch in the area.

In 2011, the region ended up being blanketed by inches of snow during a freaky Halloween storm. This time around, the wind came, the trees fell and the lights went out.

Hurricane Sandy reared her wet and windy head, and knocked out power to hundreds of residents, leaving many in the dark for days on end.

Schools canceled classes for several days while utility and town crews worked to get the lights and heat back on.

Generator sales spiked and fire officials kept constant watch over the safety and well-being of residents as they weathered the dark nights and cool days.

Voters turn out

in large numbers

Voters in town turned out in record numbers in November to not only choose a president, but also a new governor and new state representatives to head to Concord.

For many years, only Republicans made up the Derry legislative contingent, but voters picked two Democratic women to help lead the local group.

Betsy Burtis and Mary Till both made the cut and joined eight Republicans for the 10 seats.

Approximately 16,500 of the town’s 18,000-plus registered voters headed to the polls to cast their ballots, most likely a record turnout, officials said.

Three polling places opened their doors and had people lining up most of the day. New voter registration numbers also hit high marks during the day.

“We had the last voters coming into the booth at 8:40 p.m.,” Town Administrator John Anderson said.

Preliminary results were read to the public by 10 p.m., another record Anderson noted as in past years and on slower voting days results came much, much later.

“It was breakthrough for all of us to get those totals,” he said.

Anderson credited the town team of clerks, officials and volunteers who made the day a huge success.